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HOME > Gaming > Ask the Slot Expert: 100% hit frequency does not mean 100% payback

Ask the Slot Expert: 100% hit frequency does not mean 100% payback

14 May 2014

By John Robison, Slot Expert™

My question is how can a player be a "professional" video poker player when all they can expect to do is maybe make one or at most two percent including comps and incentives? I play deuces wild almost exclusively and enjoy it very much. I am probably not at expert play, but I have a lot of fun. Making a living at it seems impossible. Could you please explain how someone could be a pro video poker player?

It's tough to be a video poker professional. I ran into one pro I know as I was walking into The Venetian and he was walking out. It was 7 a.m. I was just beginning my day and he was ending his. He looked beat. I've had rough days at work, but I don't think I ever looked like that at the end.

The pros work all the angles. Double points days, triple points days. Hit two royals within 24 hours and get an extra bonus. Whatever the promotion, if it's something they can use, they'll be there. And they'll have figured out if they have to change their usual strategy to get maximum benefit from the promotion.

They also play a lot. Pros play hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars in action each year. A few percent of that action is real money. The pros I know don't make the six-figure incomes that some of the blackjack teams make, but they make a decent living.

My wife and I just returned from a weekend in Las Vegas. We tried something which seems to work. We played two-coin, quarter non-progressive slots with low top lines and payout schedules that only doubled with second coin play. We started with one coin play and jumped up to two coins if and when the credits hit a certain level. Most of our play was on Double Diamonds Deluxe.

We tried this approach in three different Fremont Street Casinos and had the same results in each. The winnings are meager but consistent. More importantly, they are winnings and when added to the slot club benefits, our hotel was paid for.

My question is this: Is there a difference in the machine's characteristics from one coin play or full coin play with regards to its programming? We'd like to try this on dollar machines next month.

Congratulations on your success in Las Vegas!

For Straight Multipliers like the machine you played, Double Diamond Deluxe, the characteristics of the machine are the same regardless of the number of coins you play. The hit frequency and long-term payback are the same when you play one coin and when you play two coins. Also, the Random Number Generator in the machine doesn't care how many coins you played when it chooses the outcome of a spin.

Is it possible to have a machine with 100 percent hit frequency that doesn't pay back 100 percent?

It is definitely possible to have a machine that hits something on every spin and pays back less than 100 percent.

Consider a multi-line slot machine. If the machine has, say, nine lines, there's a very good chance that you'll get some sort of hit on every spin, and the vast majority of those hits will be for less than the amount of money you wagered on the spin. From your wallet's viewpoint, there's no difference between losing three coins on a spin on a single payline machine and betting nine coins and winning back six coins on a nine-line machine. The net is the same -- a loss of three coins.

Now consider a 50-play video poker machine. It is very unlikely that you won't get a hit on at least one of the 50 hands, yet, unless the paytable is one of the few 100 percent+ payback paytables and you play nearly perfectly, the machine will eventually take all of your money--even though you're getting a 100 percent hit frequency.

Send your slot and video poker questions to John Robison, Slot Expert™, at slotexpert@slotexpert.com. Because of the volume of mail I receive, I regret that I can't reply to every question.

Copyright © John Robison. Slot Expert and Ask the Slot Expert are trademarks of John Robison.

John Robison
John  Robison
John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming's leading publications. Hear John on "The Good Times Radio Gaming Show," broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoons. You can listen to archives of the show online anytime.

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